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The story of  my Amsterdam Canal House  Singel 224 is fictional. In fact,  there is no number 224 on the real Singel as the numbers on th...

The story of my Amsterdam Canal House Singel 224 is fictional. In fact,  there is no number 224 on the real Singel as the numbers on the canal jump from 214 to 236.  Apparently there once was a house at that address, I found a photo of it in the Amsterdam archives 12 years ago.  I have not found out why the address no longer exists. 

Even though the address doesn't actually exist, I do like to use real historical elements to create a background story.   So, lately I have been researching some of the history of the area around Singel 224 through paintings, old maps and photos.  This is a long post and I'm afraid not very interesting for many of you…


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The Singel Canal was dug in 1428 and 1450.  For more than 150 years the canal formed the western border of the city.In the 17th century the country experienced enormous growth in trade, science and art, and  Amsterdam started expanding hugely.  The animation below shows just how much it grew.



The story of my Canal House Singel 224 starts when it was built in 1638.  It is located very near the city centre and close to where all the main trading is taking place in the city.  Not much is known about the house and its owner at that time, but it is safe to assume that it was built for and owned by a wealthy tradesman.  The location on the canal would make it easy to transport goods from the harbor to the house and vice versa. 

Ten years after the canal house was built,  work was started on the new City Hall of Amsterdam. It was to be a magnificent building, showing the wealth and importance of the city.  The new City Hall is only a stone's throw away from Singel 224.


Building the new City Hall on the Dam in Amsterdam.  The building in the foreground is the Weigh House, where trade goods were weighed to ensure honest trade and proper taxation. Painting by Jacob van der Ulft, 1636-1667 (collection of the Amsterdam Museum).





Goods were transported by boat on the river and the canals.  The Weigh House opposite the City Hall was an important trade center.  Singel 224 is only a few minutes' walk away from this busy market square. Painting by Jan van Kessel.
source: http://www.amsterdam.info




The City Hall seen from the Dam Square with the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) to its right.  Brisk trading is going on in the foreground.  Painting by Gerrit  Berckheyde in 1673.



The City Hall seen from the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal.  It looks like there is a plant sale or flower market on the left bank.  Painting by Gerrit Berckheyde, 1686.

 

 

In 1742 the Canal House was bought by the wealthy tea trading widow Martha de Kleijne.  The house is remodeled inside and out in Louis XIV and XV style.  This drawing shows what the house looked like around that time, with the top two floors as attics for storing the merchant's goods.





Map of Amsterdam , 1748.    
The red arrow shows the location of Singel 224.   The purple rectangle shows the City Hall.





1751, painting by Jan ten Compe.The Mint Tower seen from the Singel.  This part of the Singel is at the end of the canal, where it meets the Amstel River (still in the center of the city).






 'Arrival of Napoleon in Amsterdam', painted by Mattheus Ignatius van Bree.
Yes, those are French flags on the buildings.

In 1806 Napoleon Bonaparte's brother, Lodewijk (Louis) Napoleon, became the first king of the Netherlands.  As there was not enough money to build a new palace, he transformed the City Hall into his palace in 1808, making Amsterdam his official residence.  
As the Weigh House obstructed the view from and to the palace and was a very busy and noisy place, King Louis Napoleon ordered to have it demolished.   Louis Napoleon and his wife Hortense de Beauharnais only lived in the palace for a short while, but the building would never go back to being the City Hall.  It always remained a palace. 



The area around Singel 224 stayed much the same for 200 years, but around 1895 it was all about to change.  Plans were drawn up to build a wide road cutting right across the canals towards the Palace.  



 Map from before 1895, showing the proposed new road 'Raadhuisstraat', a few houses down from Singel 224. The red arrow shows the location of Singel 224, 'A' is the Palace, 'B' is the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and 'C' is the Westerkerk (Western Church).  

I suppose the new road was to meant give more importance or grandeur to the Palace, creating a vista.  Maybe it did look nice when the road was first built, but now it is just an ugly, wide strip of asphalt with lots of traffic (see last two photos)..  
 Original map from: bmz.amsterdam.nl 




The Raadhuisstraat today (photo from Google Maps).  
The layout is still exactly as proposed in the 19th century. The red dot indicates the location of Singel 224.  The Palace is on the lower right.



The photos below show what the area looked like before the road was built, and during the demolition of houses to make room for the road.


The Warmoes Canal before it was filled in to create the road.   View towards the houses on the Herengracht. Photo:  A.T. Rooswinkel, around 1894.




1894. Photo by Jacob Olie.
Warmoes Canal 10-26  (after 1895 this was the Raadhuisstraat). View from the Singel towards the Herengracht with Singel 242 on the corner left and Singel 240 on the corner right.
bron:  wikipedia




1894. Photo by Jacob Olie.
The Warmoes Canal a few months before it was filled in, view towards the Palace.  The houses in front of the Palace are being demolished.




5 april 1896.  Photo by Jacob Olie.
Warmoes Canal 10 to 26 (f.r.t.l.) after it was filled in.   Houses along the Herengracht are being demolished to make room for the road.  View from the roof of Singel 107 towards the Herengracht with the Westerkerk (Western Church) in the background. 
The road (Raadhuisstraat) was opened for traffic on 5 November1896.
source:  beeldbank.amsterdam.nl





Photos from Google Maps.
 
View of the Singel (with the red arrow pointing to where number 224 would be, conveniently hidden behind the trees) and the Raadhuisstraat.  The lower photo shows the Palace at the end of the road on the right.  Not much grandeur with this road I think.  It was unusually quiet when this photo was taken, normally the road is filled with traffic. I don't think this road was an improvement.  The old canals were so much prettier.  
 

 
The house on the corner with the red brick facade and white side elevation (Singel 240) is the same house you can see on the two photos from 1894 and 1896.  The Westerkerk is still there, but is obscured from view in the last photos.





And so, the story grows...

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25 comments

  1. Josje! What a wonderful history into you your mini house and its surrounding area. It really helps when you have an idea of the people who might live there when working on a project, but a full history and understanding is an excellent idea. It lets us in to your way of thinking and helps explain where you are coming from.
    Not a long post, at all! I was sad to reach the end. I hope you post the next part soon.
    Si

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    1. Ps I like your new blog layout

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    2. Haha, you really enjoyed it Si? Thank you. Well I found so much more I will post a part two, although that will be more about architecture etc.

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  2. Bravo pour le choix de la vidéo et des photos. C'est vraiment passionnant et très intéressant.

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    1. Thank you Jean-Claude. By weaving in historical facts the story of my dolls house becomes more mine, almost as if the person(s) living there are my relatives.

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  3. History and miniatures are probably two subjects that capture my imagination more than anything else so it's really interesting when they meet. I love that you have spent the time researching how Amsterdam and the area surrounding your Canal House has evolved over the years. It helps me to imagine the people living at No. 224 - the sort of things they would use to decorate their home, the fashions of the day.
    Thank you for sharing your process =0)

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    1. Thank you Pepper! I enjoy reading about every day history, social history. This time I found a painting which prompted me to do some more research. I really like the old photos of the area, especially the one where they're demolishing the houses (even though I really like the way it was before the demolition much more than after). Just as you said, it also helps me to imagine the people living at No. 224.
      By the way Pepper, did you disable the comments on your blog? I wanted to leave a comment on your Newby Hall post (and again today) but couldn't find how to do it. I shared that post on Facebook so that more people could enjoy those wonderful photos.

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  4. Post grandioso!!! Brava Josje!!!

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  5. Oh what a fascinating post, Josje! I Love history, and I love to have a story to tell about the mini houses! Yours is certainly deeply tied to a fascinating piece of history! The video about the growth of the city is Mesmerizing! I could watch it again and again! I love the sense of design and intention there was about the shaping of the city.... knowing exactly what was needed and where it should go... city planning at its best! I agree that the redesigning for the road was a travesty... but marked the shift from water to land mobility which was taking place everywhere! Over here in the States, we tend to admire the old towns and cities of Europe that were shaped pre-automobile and still have the proportions of foot travel or horse travel. I find it quite fascinating to imagine the layers of growth and commerce causing the city to expand so quickly! I really look forward to learning more about your Unique Canal House!

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    1. Yes that video is pretty cool. I have watched it several times too! This city really was built around the trade and transport on water. The filling in of the canals was not only about land mobility, but also about improved hygiene. The canals on some streets posed a real health risk and were very smelly. Rich people often had a country house so they could get away from the bad smells in summer. This was not unique to Amsterdam though, all cities had this problem until closed and below ground sewers became the norm.

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  6. This is wonderful. I loved reading about the history. I think every dollhouse needs a story.

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    1. Thank you Catherine. Yes, a story is good to have, but I think really mostly necessary for the builder/maker. For others it is OK to make up their own stories with what they see, or just see it as a collection of objects in a box looking like a house ;-) But a background story can make it more interesting.

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  7. This is so interesting. I studied history in the Universiteit van Amsterdam for a semester abroad, so I was often in that area. I always did wonder why the "palace" did not look much like a palace and looked more like a city hall, so this explains it.

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    1. How wonderful to study a semester abroad! I hope you enjoyed your stay in Amsterdam. I never actually wondered about that, it was just the palace...but now that you mention it, it doesn't really look like a palace. Although...what is a palace supposed to look like anyway.

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  8. This is really interesting historyfacts, thank you for sharing! :)

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  9. This was such an engrossing read Josje, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time-lapsed video over-view of the growth of the city as well as all of the Beautiful historical artwork depicting the morphing of Amsterdam via major world events. Not many miniatures could produce such abundant documentation.
    Truly, up to now, I had no idea that your Canal house was based upon a Real House... but oh, how Enchanting! :D

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    1. Well, this house is not really based on one house in particular, but more on the houses which were built in that area at that time. Most of which still exist but not the one at that address. All of the exterior and interior is made up by me, based on historical facts. But with a lot of 'artistic freedom' as we say here. ;-)

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  10. Fascinating! Watching the video, and then seeing today via google, wow! Fun. Lots of interesting information here.

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    1. Hi Linda, Yes odd to think that people who saw the canals and houses being built would still recognize it today, some 400 years later. There have been many changes, but much of it is still just as it was then.

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  11. Hi Josje,
    I really enjoyed this! I love history (now, not that much in school, haha) and it's wonderful to see a bit of it here as research about your canal house Singel 224. Too bad you haven't been able to find out what happened to it, I hope you do sometime. I loved the video, that must have taken them forever to make, it's awesome! And with some shame - although I'm pretty sure not many people do - I had no idea Napoleon's brother was our first king!
    The Raadhuissingel is no improvement indeed.. a real shame, those photo's of the canals from before are só wonderful and it's a real shame it all had to go...
    Have you ever been at Het Grachtenhuis? (Herengracht 386) It's a great museum in a beautiful canal house about the Amsterdam Canals I think you might like (if you don't know it yet) and well worth a visit. It even has a dollshouse with rooms with animated people (by ghostimaging, if that's how you call it).
    Thank you for this informative and enjoyable post! :D

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    1. Hi Monique,
      The same goes for me, I like history more now than when I was in school, but I think that also has to do with the fact that in school the focus is on politics and wars etc., not social history and art history. And as for Lodewijk Napoleon, "Conijn van Olland" I think there are loads of people who didn't know he was our king and a very good one for us as well! There is a very fun TV program about it, meant for kids but very entertaining for us adults too. Well worth watching: http://www.npo.nl/welkom-in-de-ijzeren-eeuw/17-01-2016/VPWON_1231822 Actually the whole series is fun and interesting.
      Het Grachtenhuis ken ik, ze hebben me nog om informatie gevraagd toen ze met het poppenhuis bezig waren. Maar ik ben er nog steeds niet geweest, het komt er steeds niet van.

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  12. Hi, Josje! You have a professional blog, this manual. Thank you for the interesting information about the history of Amsterdam!
    Привет! У вас такой профессиональный блог, настоящее руководство. Спасибо за интересную информацию об истории Амстердама!

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    1. Hi Юлия (Google translated your name to Julia, but I'm not sure if that is correct). Thank you for your kind words. My blog is far from professional though, I should update it more often! I hope to have time for some more posts soon.

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